The COVID-19 pandemic and the relentless rise in the cost of living in California has exposed and exacerbated deep inequalities in access to higher education, especially among “students of color, students with disabilities, and students who are caregivers.” The University of California prides itself on a socioeconomically diverse student body, including underrepresented minorities (28% of enrollment in Fall 2020), first generation undergraduates (40%), and low-income undergraduates (35%). Yet, it compensates Academic Student Employees (ASEs) about 30 percent less than competing institutions and “a considerable gap remains between UC’s average net stipend and growing living costs in California.” According to the University’s 2021 Accountability Report, “This is a significant problem with negative implications for UC research and graduate education. It poses challenges in recruitment of students, and for enrolled students, inhibits their ability to adequately meet basic living needs.”
On average, ASEs spend over half of our income on rent, including those of us who reside in university housing. And ASEs are not alone. Postdocs, Student Researchers, and Academic Researchers also face high rents and low pay. Now is the time to address compensation and the cost of living crisis to ensure an equitable access to opportunity at UC. Without the work of ASEs, Postdocs, Student Researchers, and Academic Researchers, the UC would not be one of the country’s leading public universities.
This year, UAW 2865, the Union of Academic Student Employees at UC, is bargaining alongside UAW 5810 (Postdocs and Academic Researchers) and SRU-UAW (Student Researchers) to demand measures that address the housing crisis and make access to opportunity more equitable at UC. With the combined power of 48,000 UAW academic workers, we have a historic opportunity to win a truly public university that serves the our communities.
Success in bargaining in large part depends on what takes place outside the bargaining room. To win at the bargaining table, the involvement and activism of every union member is critical. We need to be united and committed to our bargaining demands to ensure that we get a fair and strong contract. In the coming months, you can directly contribute to winning a strong contract by:
- Making sure you’re a member and asking other ASEs to join
- Keeping your department up-to-date about bargaining. Reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org to talk to a union steward.
- Find other ways to get involved here